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Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small

Zoom in on a world where distances are measured in billionths of a meter—the fascinating science of nanotechnology.
Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 46.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from All new to me I was not familiar with Nanotechnology until I happened on this course, and so found it very exciting to learn about all the various aspects of it and its uses in the practical world. I enjoyed the course so much that when I met a young high school student in Hubei, China, who had an interest in science, I wrote down the word "nanotechnology" in his notebook and told him to ask his teacher about it. I wish I could have given the course to him, but unfortunately he did not speak English. However, it may have spurred his interest, or at least impressed his teachers, because he got a place in a prestigious Chinese university to study physics.
Date published: 2024-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting information I enjoyed learning more about nano tech. I'm looking forward to seeing such things come on line in the world we see.
Date published: 2023-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Course for Idea People Congratulations to the Great Courses for featuring not only excellent professors but accomplished ENTREPRENEURS...truly groundbreaking! It was astounding to watch how such minds turn difficulties in their fields into opportunity. Sargent's eyes reflect purpose: they are distant as he builds his case then attain a boyish gleam as he nears his solution. Kelly, conversely, has a calm motherly steadfastness throughout her intense presentation. Both demonstrate the application of the scientific method and the enormous number of research caveats involved. Both emphasize the collaborative process (especially Lecture 16=L16). The Guidebook is well done but the video is essential. Preceding this with Great Course Particle Physics for Non-Physicists by Pollock was useful. Sargent (L1-6) starts things off with explanations that provide a radical reconstruction of what you thought about matter. His methodical explanations of physics provide clarity to quantum dots, carbon nanohorns, the useful properties of gold nanoparticles, the concept of electron waves having special extent at the scale of a few nanometers, etc. He carefully shows: how the electron wave can be delocalized and ubiquitous, the photolithographic interaction of light with photoresist, why nanometer gate oxides cause electrons to act as quantum mechanical waves with a PROBABILITY of ending up in a transistor channel, the challenges of 3D devices, how carbon nanotubes act as a semiconductor OR as a metal depending on the angle at which they are rolled up, electrons skimming over graphene at incredible velocity, and how “quantum wells” boost/tune lasers to the wavelength needed to match an optical fiber's needs. Although this may sound like a lot, his explanations and illustrations are quite clear. Kelly (L7-16) discusses medical applications. As a former physician, her L8 was extremely relevant when she pointed out that the enzyme peroxidase apparently breaks down carbon nanotubules – a concern that has major implications for drug delivery. Her L9 discussion of nanomaterials that can emit in the far-red part of the spectrum to get around natural tissue absorption and emission, as well as the “magic" 4 nanometer quantum dot size were appreciated. Equally so was her discussion (L10) of the workings of nanomaterial chip-based systems. She does a wonderful job discussing the ramifications of applying nanotech to living systems. Her discussion of tumor blood supply was well done, as was that of nanoscale drug carriers via corked nanohorns, liposomes, protein nanoparticles, and pH sensitive nanovalves. L13 should be mandatory in high school with its discussion of the very high cost of the FDA protections process: drug trials take a total of 8 years and only 1 in 1000 make it to market. I remember the onset of TV ads for expensive new drugs (that were often no better than older drugs – yet some were). 3rd party payment has turned this expensive process into a bureaucrat-take-all 3-ring-circus. I believe that Kelly quite conservative views are admired. L17-24 are a series of brilliant ideas beginning with Sargeants’ “nanomotifs” that help one begin to imagine their possibilities. His L19 “fingers of donor and acceptor materials” brought to mind micro-section crosscut slides of human dermis. Kelly’s comment that the 16,0000 species of diatoms (L23) handle half of CO2 recycling is important. More important is her humbling observation: “Have we been able to reproduce artificially the functions of these kinds of natural nanomachines? We haven’t even come close.” COMMENTS: 1.) My father was part of the research team that created L12's groundbreaking anti-cancer drug doxorubicin. A “pre-approval” vial of doxorubicin from the 80’s remains the same bright red that Kelly describes. 2.) As a physician. I gave lectures to civilian and military physicians on the intersection of molecular biochemistry and nonlinear complexity (including positive feedback loops, Turing Instability, and "mode locking" entrainment) across diabetic, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular diseases. Inadvertent or not, Kelley's L8 sentence: “Some proteins have EVOLVED to very specifically recognize other proteins…thus, their structures are DESIGNED to find and bind partners" (emphasis added) and Sargent's L22 quote: “The BRILLIANCE of the way in which life and biology manage photosynthesis...” reflect intelligence behind the evolutionary story - as did my own lectures. We are not an accident. (Gen 1:1)
Date published: 2023-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Professors, Drs Sargent and Kelley a husband-and-wife team, are able to make an extremely complex field understandable to a layman with the level of high physics. One could take the course many times and glean more information each pass. They present the material interestly not just dry physics.
Date published: 2023-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting information. It is hard to understand but very interesting in the information. I intend to give to grandson who is first year bio medical. The lecturers are brilliant. If an up-to-bate version came out I would be interested in buying.
Date published: 2021-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Two wonderful lecturers I enjoyed this course and learnt a lot from two excellent lecturers. It is very interesting to hear about the uses and potential of nanotechnology in material science and the medical field.
Date published: 2021-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth it Very impressive. Well taught and well paced. Thanks for developing this presentation.
Date published: 2021-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Scope & Details! The course covered an amazing variety of nanotechnology areas . The professors presented the material in a clear, easy to understand manner. Their professional accomplishments and credentials are very impressive.
Date published: 2020-08-26
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Nanotechnology is today’s most powerful engine of innovation, turning cutting-edge research into applications at an astonishing rate. Now, in the 24 accessible and visually rich half-hour lectures of Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small, get an in-depth explanation of this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary science that operates at the level of atoms and molecules. You’ll learn about once-fantastical applications that are transforming tools, products, and services in the communications, technology, medical, energy, and engineering worlds, and that hold great promise for meeting some of society’s greatest challenges.


Shana Kelley

As you might imagine, nanoscientists derive lots of inspiration from biology. We look at the complex world of biology and we marvel at its ability to selforganize and we try to recreate what we see with the tools of nanotechnology.


Northwestern University

Dr. Shana Kelley is the former director of the Division of Biomolecular Sciences at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Professor Kelley's research has been featured in Scientific American and Nature Medicine, among other publications. Her work has been recognized with a variety of awards, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. She currently serves as Chief Technology Officer for a firm she cofounded, which is based on her work in biomolecular sensing.

By This Professor

Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small
Ted Sargent

Our capability to understand and engineer materials on the nanoscale has enabled the computer revolution.


University of Toronto

Dr. Ted Sargent holds the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, where he also earned his Ph.D. His research has been disseminated in leading scientific journals, and he is the author of The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives. In 2007 he addressed the pathbreaking Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference in Monterey, California. Professor Sargent founded and serves as Chief Technology Officer and a director of InVisage Technologies Inc., which was honored with The Wall Street Journal 2010 Technology Innovation Award.

By This Professor

Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small
Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small


The Crossroads of 21st-Century Science

01: The Crossroads of 21st-Century Science

Join Professors Sargent and Kelley for an initial plunge into the nanoscale, the tiny and mind-blowing realm where revolutionary developments are taking place in applied physics, computer science, biology, and medicine. Begin by probing the size of a nanometer and consider how laws of nature and principles of design change at that scale.

34 min
The Fundamental Importance of Being Nano

02: The Fundamental Importance of Being Nano

Professor Sargent discusses the rules that govern the nanoscale, where the strange effects of quantum mechanics offer exciting possibilities for engineering. Survey the structure of atoms and molecules and their interactions with light, which are fundamental properties at the nanoscale.

31 min
From Micro to Nano—Scaling in a Digital World

03: From Micro to Nano—Scaling in a Digital World

Trace the evolution of the original computer switches—vacuum tubes—to smaller and smaller components: first to discrete transistors and then to printed circuits that have now shrunk to the nanoscale. Learn how Moore’s law predicts exponential progress in this “race to the bottom.”

29 min
Leveraging the Nanometer in Computing

04: Leveraging the Nanometer in Computing

Moore’s law forecasts that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double roughly every two years. This rule of thumb has held for more than half a century. But how long can it continue? The nanoscale offers new challenges and solutions to the problem of producing ever-smaller circuits.

30 min
Leveraging the Nanometer in Communications

05: Leveraging the Nanometer in Communications

How did the world become networked so fast? Follow a beam of light down a fiber-optic cable to understand why it now costs pennies to send data that would have been billed at more than $100,000 just a few decades ago.

32 min
Sensing the World through Nanoengineering

06: Sensing the World through Nanoengineering

Megapixel cameras on cell phones may seem miraculous, but nanoengineering promises far more powerful imaging systems. Quantum dots will give cameras much greater sensitivity and the ability to detect light across a broad range of invisible wavelengths, opening new applications for image processing.

33 min
Nanomedicine—DNA and Gold Nanoparticles

07: Nanomedicine—DNA and Gold Nanoparticles

Begin a series of lectures with Dr. Kelley on nanoscience in biology. The building blocks of life, including DNA, are nanoscale objects, making ideal targets for nanotechnology diagnostic tools and disease treatments. As an example, see how gold nanoparticles are used to identify genetic mutations.

29 min
Nano and Proteins—Enzymes to Cholesterol

08: Nano and Proteins—Enzymes to Cholesterol

Gold nanoparticles attached to an antibody protein allow a simple pregnancy test. Discover that nanoparticles are also tools for mapping how cholesterol and other protein molecules enter cells.

29 min
Nanoparticles Detect Cancer in Living Organisms

09: Nanoparticles Detect Cancer in Living Organisms

Learn how metal nanoparticles called quantum dots can signal the presence of cancer cells inside the body. While still experimental, this technology may herald a breakthrough in noninvasive medical imaging.

28 min
Detecting Only a Few Molecules of a Disease

10: Detecting Only a Few Molecules of a Disease

Turn to cancer diagnostic tools “in vitro”—outside the body. Professor Kelley discusses her own work on a system for disease diagnosis that uses nanomaterials layered on microelectronic chips. This research promises much more efficient detection of the molecules that signal cancer.

29 min
Nanomaterials That Seek and Destroy Disease

11: Nanomaterials That Seek and Destroy Disease

Explore three strategies for treating tumors. A photothermal approach places gold nanoparticles in a tumor and then irradiates the particles from an external source. A similar but more targeted technique tunes the radiation to a precise frequency, sparing surrounding tissues. Finally, learn how the gold nanoparticles themselves can be the tumor-killing agent.

29 min
How Nanomaterials Improve Drug Delivery

12: How Nanomaterials Improve Drug Delivery

Drugs are administered by injection, inhalation, skin patches, or in pills. These methods deliver only a fraction of the medication to the needed areas, and many potentially useful biomolecules have no effective way to get to their targets. Discover that nanomaterials offer a solution to these problems.

30 min
Delivering Drugs with

13: Delivering Drugs with "Smart" Nanocapsules

Learn how nano-enabled drug delivery systems can target cells with greater potency and fewer side effects than traditional treatments can. Examples include protein nanoparticles and liposomes, which have already been approved for clinical use. Then examine some next-generation approaches.

29 min
Nanoscale Surgical Tools

14: Nanoscale Surgical Tools

Nanoscale surgical tools can make excisions with incredible precision, ensuring that when a cancerous tumor is removed, no malignant cells remain and no healthy cells are harmed. Explore this ongoing medical revolution, and discover the role of robotics in enhancing the surgeon’s skill.

27 min
Nanomaterials for Artificial Tissue

15: Nanomaterials for Artificial Tissue

Regenerative medicine focuses on producing artificial substitutes that can restore or replace damaged tissues or organs. Learn how nanomaterials stimulate cell and tissue growth in the body. Also follow progress in generating artificial organs outside the body to help meet the demand for organ transplants.

30 min
How Nano Research Gets Done

16: How Nano Research Gets Done

Professors Kelley and Sargent introduce their research teams. Discover that nanotechnology is highly interdisciplinary. Chemists generate new materials. Physicists help understand those materials. Biologists put biomolecules and nanomaterials together. And engineers help turn basic discoveries into devices.

34 min
Nanomotifs—Building Blocks, Complex Structures

17: Nanomotifs—Building Blocks, Complex Structures

Professor Sargent takes a brief interlude to showcase the visual side of nanoengineering. View the complex structures that are built from nanoparts. Starting with nanoparticles, consider the many shapes that can be created, from nanotubes to supercrystals—structures that are not just useful but beautiful.

32 min
Using Nanotechnology to Capture Sunlight

18: Using Nanotechnology to Capture Sunlight

Starting a sequence of lectures on nanotechnology and energy, Professor Sargent probes the physics of solar cells, which use semiconductors to generate an electric current from sunlight. Learn how nanotechnology is making this renewable energy source more efficient and cost-effective.

30 min
Photons to Electricity—Nano-Based Solar Cells

19: Photons to Electricity—Nano-Based Solar Cells

Explore further into nanoscale solar cell technology by looking at different techniques for capturing solar energy. Rigid silicon-based hardware may soon be a thing of the past, replaced by inexpensive products such as organic photovoltaics, which are composed of physically flexible organic polymers that can be applied like plastic sheeting.

32 min
Nanotechnology for Storing Energy

20: Nanotechnology for Storing Energy

One of the challenges of renewable energy is that its hours of peak production may not correspond to times of peak demand, creating the problem of energy storage. Investigate some solutions that nanotechnology offers, including supercapacitors and a remarkable new class of batteries assembled by viruses.

30 min
Nanotechnology for Releasing Energy

21: Nanotechnology for Releasing Energy

Catalysts foster a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction, using and releasing energy with incredible efficiency. Explore this phenomenon at the nanoscale, seeing how nanomaterials can increase the surface area of a catalyst, which greatly improves its performance for a wide range of applications.

30 min
Energy's Holy Grail—Artificial Photosynthesis

22: Energy's Holy Grail—Artificial Photosynthesis

The ultimate energy collection and storage system is photosynthesis. Nature does it with plants, but researchers are striving to attain the same result with nanotechnology—using sunlight to produce and store energy in the form of a fuel such as hydrogen.

31 min
Nanorobots and Nature’s Nanomachines

23: Nanorobots and Nature’s Nanomachines

Learn how nanorobots that take over the world in science fiction usually defy the laws of physics, and survey concerns about the harm that nanomaterials can do. Look at nanovehicles built with buckeyballs for wheels, and then turn to nature’s nanomachines such as diatoms, which build astonishing structures at the molecular level. Explore ways that these tiny creatures may be more effective than nanorobots.

30 min
On the Horizon and in the Far Future

24: On the Horizon and in the Far Future

Close your exploration of nanotechnology by looking ahead at possible near- and long-term developments. One is a real “cloak of invisibility.” Then look back to revisit physicist Richard Feynman’s bold predictions. See how far we’ve come and discover what Feynman apparently overlooked.

37 min